Edinburgh Fringe 2014
Something is eating the residents of Hemlock. Can Sergeant Andy solve the mystery with the help of shy Caroline, the pathologist, or do they need the help of Whitechapel, legendary hunter of the supernatural? But where is Whitechapel? Up the Andes, in the rain forest, or leading a five hour ghost buster workout (if you’re not dead at the end you’re a sissy)? With Whitechapel reluctantly on board the adventure commences in a deliciously silly blend of Boys’ Own meets Miss Marple as Andy and Whitechapel combines forces to solve a genuine whodunit.
Like a lurid adult comic or graphic novel come to life, tight comic writing from this talented young company has produced a dark absurdist comedy and some rather poignant love scenes. There are excellent performances from David Cumming, Natasha Hodgson, Oliver Jones and Zoe Roberts who form the company Kill the Beasts, an associate of The Lowry, Manchester. All the actors played multiple characters and crossed genders, with a little bit of help from over-the-top wigs and many, many bad hats.
The company dispenses with set but instead use an excellent stylish back projection with animation provided by Alex Purcell, reminiscent of Raymond Biggs’ Fungus the Bogeyman. Credit is also due to every member of the production team listed as lights, sound and costumes all add to the tightly rehearsed production with everyone spot on with their cues.
This is breathtaking physical theatre which clearly has taken hours of rehearsal. Credit to the director (and the cast) that all the characters, and there are many, are fully rounded and don’t ever turn into 2D cartoons. There also some very slick and unexpected uses of props which won laughs in their own right from a very appreciative audience. If there was a prize for the most inventive use of an extendable dog lead then Kill the Beasts would surely win it.
The show makes a bit of slow start with back to back rather repetitive scenes between two sets of thwarted lovers but after that the engine revs up and off we go on a bone-shaking ride away from the foothills and into the peaks. It is blink and you’ll miss it fast-paced action with some truly dreadful puns.
The company (who are billed as writers as well as actors) need to be more brutal with the red pen and, if not the writers themselves, then a producer to be firm with what is left in. It is not easy when you have written some very funny material to make cuts but as Mr Wilde says “kill your darlings”, specifically in this case by shortening the stage time of the two tweedy county ladies.
The bastard child of The League of Gentleman, Tintin, Bleak Expectations and, (in a very weird, and maybe just me way, Under Milk Wood) delivers a laugh-out-loud hour of pure entertainment.